By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
Sleazy. Exploitative. Titillating. And thats some of the nicer things people are saying about TVs latest round of really bad programming.
Critics, talk-show hosts and other holier-than-thou types are secretly delighted to be outraged by "Temptation Island," "Manhunt," "Mole" and "Survivor II." They havent had this much stuff to talk about since dimpled chads.
Every day, you hear someone say these new shows are shameful, voyeuristic, the end of civilization as we know it. People wonder if Hollywood hasnt finally become the next Babylon.
Hey! Chill out!
TV is low-brow? Well, duh.
Did you think the schlock weve been watching for decades was educational? Its pretty much been garbage right from the start. Its been a cesspool since the day Milton Berle told his first off-color joke before a camera.
If 50 years of TV culture has taught us anything at all, its that TV culture is pretty much one of those self-canceling phrases, like military intelligence or compassionate conservatism. Think Im exaggerating? Two words: Lucille Ball. Three more words: The Three Stooges. Four words: "My Mother, the Car."
Its not really all that big a jump from "Gilligans Island" to "Temptation Island." "Millionaire" is just a glamorous remake of "$64,000 Question," and that ended in a scandal that the whole nation somehow took to heart.
The critics say we, the viewers, are to blame.
"Temptation Island," which arrived awash in controversy, and "The Mole" premiered to solid ratings. More than 16 million people watched "Temptation Island," even though almost all of them understood what trash to expect. NBC plans to show special 40-minute episodes of "Friends" during the upcoming sweeps week rating period to keep viewers from switching to "Survivor."
You know what? I dont care. Besides, how can I criticize anyones TV watching habits?
I can spend eight hours on a beautiful Hawaii Sunday watching football games with teams I couldnt care less about. Id rather watch "Nash Bridges" than read Ogden Nash after a long day at work. I think "Xena, Warrior Princess" is really cool.
So yes, Im guilty. Pretty much, we all are.
Ill bet you the most pompous critics of "Survivor" dont know what violence their kids are watching on the Cartoon Network. The violence they once thought funny in "Bugs Bunny" or "Road Runner," they now condemn in "South Park."
When it comes to television, criticism is a long, slippery slope. No one should be surprised that weve fallen into a big hole and cant find our way out.
Its hardly the end of the world, though. Were all survivors of 50 years of bad TV. Nothing in "Survivor II" or "Temptation Island" can make things worse.
Mike Leidemanns columns appear Thursdays and Saturdays in The Advertiser. He can be reached by phone (525-5460) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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